Dueling Regimes: The Means-Ends Dilemma of Multilateral Intervention Policy

By Wilson, Isaiah,, III | World Affairs, Winter 2001 | Go to article overview

Dueling Regimes: The Means-Ends Dilemma of Multilateral Intervention Policy


Wilson, Isaiah,, III, World Affairs


The year 1999 marked the tenth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, an event now largely accepted as the symbolic end of over forty years of cold war. The ensuing post-cold war period, however, has left scholars, policymakers, and policy shapers perplexed by its new realities of intense ethnic, religious, and cultural conflict. There has been little peace dividend for nations to savor; instead, nations, nongovernmental organizations, and multilateral institutions have found themselves embroiled in case after case of regional conflict. More perplexing is the apparent impotence of state and nonstate actors to design and implement effective policy solutions to contemporary conflicts.(1) U.S. intervention in Somalia in 1992-93, global response to the genocide of Rwanda in 1993-94, and ongoing operations in Kosovo are just three examples.

What distinguishes post-cold war intervention policy from that of the cold war? What has changed with respect to national ideas about just rationales for international intervention today? How do changing perceptions of what are legitimate and justifiable reasons for intervention affect the ability of state and nonstate actors to effectively make and carry out policies for conflict resolution? The last question addresses the central issue: the inadequacy of contemporary intervention policy. Although various theoretical paradigms in political science help to explain certain aspects of intervention policy, no single existing approach presents a model capable of categorizing and examining it in totality. In this article, I present one possible approach. I propose that my dueling regimes theory and its focus on (a) the norms and principles (the ends) and (b) the rules and decision-making procedures (the means) adequately describe the pillars of policymaking in general and provide a most appropriate frame of reference for comparing and contrasting the differing policies toward the Balkans from 1990 to roughly 1998.

In this article, I look at a specific puzzle: Why was initial intervention in the Balkan crisis insufficient?(2) And why was later intervention policy in the Balkans more conducive to creating an effective peace?(3) Hindsight paints a picture of multinational response to the Balkan crisis as an evolutionary process in terms of how the world both legitimized the need for interstate intervention and actually intervened. However, if we evaluate policy toward the Balkans as it existed at the time of intervention, we see two distinct and contentious regimes. While the first, traditional policy regime mandated strict nonintervention during the early phase of the conflict, a new regime, calling for resolute and immediate international intervention, emerged later, creating a dilemma of ill-matched means and ends for the international community of state and nonstate actors. The lack of international consensus over policy plans for the Balkan dilemma compromised the legitimacy of state political authority, with effects felt mostly by those living the crisis on a day-to-day basis in the Balkans: primarily the Balkan populace, but also international peacekeepers and humanitarian assistants.

THE FORMATION OF POLICY REGIMES

Policy regimes are defined as "principles, norms, rules, and decision-making procedures around which actor expectations converge in a given issue-area."(4) That is the most current definition accepted in the field of international relations and specifically among neoliberal institutionalists; more accurately, it is a hybridized concept, combining numerous propositions revolving around issues of collective action and collaboration.(5) Regimes are not elements of a new international order beyond the nation-state but are arrangements motivated by self-interest; they are components of an international system in which sovereignty remains the constitutive principle.(6) In that sense, regimes act as intervening variables between basic causal factors (systemic factors) on the one hand and outcomes and behavior on the other.

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